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The War In Vietnam - Referat

The War in Vietnam

The longest war of the 20th century!

The first phase: The Indochina war 12251ikk13ovp3t

After the withdrawal of the Japanese troops in 1945 the “Democratic Republic of Vietnam” was founded on September the 2nd in Hanoi in the North.

Under the President Ho Chi Minh, founder and president of the communistic “League for the Independence of Vietnam”, the so-called “Vietminh”, the North wanted the full power over the whole country. “Ho Chi Minh” means “The Enlightened” or “The Ocean of Light”. He was inspired by Mao Tse Dong and Lenin.

The French, who where the colonial power before the war, wanted to restore their power. The war began in November 1946 when French ships attacked the harbour of Haiphong after the Vietminh denied retreading his troops out of the city; 6000 people died. In the following battles the French troops reached to push the Vietminh back to a line westwards of Hanoi. kv251i2113ovvp

1949 the French re-established the power of Bao Dai in Saigon (who was removed from office by the Vietminh in 1945) as the president of the “Republic Vietnam”.

After the revolution in China in 1949 the communists there massively supported the Vietminh who now successfully attacked the French and drove them back.

According to the “domino theory” the West now feared that the communist, anti-colonial movement would spread over to neighbouring countries. Eisenhower, president at that time, said about that theory: "You had a row of dominoes set up, and you knocked over the first one, and what would happen to the last one was the certainty that it would go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences" Now, in 1950, the USA followed the French request for assistance and send France extensive financial and logistic support (the USA paid 80% of the costs of war). But in 1953 the Vietminh had already become generally accepted in the major part of Vietnam and the French elite-troops (parachutes, foreign legionnaires) were defeated at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in North Vietnam on the 7th of May 1954. 12000 soldiers had to surrender because General Giap managed to get heavy artillery through the jungle and bombed the French back to the Stone Ages.

At the 21st of July 1954 on the Geneva conference about Indochina an armistice (Waffenstillstand) between the Vietminh and France was closed; the 17th latitude (Breitengrad) was determined as a provisional demarcation line, the Vietminh troops withdrew themselves into the north, the French and their allied into the south. Additional, Cambodia and Laos were from there on independent; they will become important in the second phase. Now many Catholics fled to the South; they feared suppression by the Communists.

The North was still ruled by Ho Chi Minh (Democratic Republic of Vietnam), Ngo Dinh Diem, who was supported by the USA, ruled the South.

In Geneva, elections for the whole country were prescribed for 1956. The USA now feared that the Communists could win these elections and enlarged their engagement; the North was now supported by the UDSSR and China.

Between the two phases: Politics in South Vietnam

From now on, Ngo Dinh Diem built up an authoritarian system in South Vietnam, suppressed any opposition, tried to build up a strong army and finally “imported” American military advisors. While the Vietminh had political success in the North Diem had no success in the South. There are five reasons for that:

Diem announced that the elections in 1956 would not be held because of possible manipulations from the Communists. These then declared that they would free the South from the imperialistic USA. Diem then started a campaign: “Denounce the Communists”, in which many farmers who could not pay their bills were arrested.

The new constitution from October 1956 made it possible for Diem to react on political changes with Emergency power acts (Notstandsgesetze). He had had a veto in the parliament and suppressed any opposition with his secret police. The most important positions in the army and in his government were occupied by his loyal that means catholic supporters. So there was a lot of corruption.

The government suddenly took the power from the self-administration of the villages and gave it to catholic officials; the former buddhistic system was eradicated.

The land reform in 1956 couldn’t break the power of the big landowners but re-established the feudal system that already held power before the Indochina war. So the political integration of the farmers failed.

The government didn’t succeed in integrating the tribes still living in the mountains. The North succeeded in that task, so many tribes worked together with the communists.

So it seems that Diem was the bad guy and that Minh was the good guy, but the USA still supported Diem. In 1958, for example, Diem had already killed 12000 enemies of the state. But the United States feared to lose their face.

In the North, Dang Lao-Dong was elected as the new head of state in 1957. Ho Chi Minh still had very much influence as an advisor.

From 1957 on the SOUTH-VIETNAMESE communists, the VIETCONG, began to attack American and south-Vietnamese installations. They had the support of the North and could use the so-called “Ho-Chi-Minh-Path”, the main support line of the Vietminh in the Indochina war. That path lead through Cambodia and Laos. In 1960 the FNL was founded, the “Front national de Libération du Viet Nam Sud”, which was dependent from the communists in the North. The word “Vietcong”, by the way, is said to be invented by Diem himself.

As the attacks of the Vietcong became more and more aggressive the USA had to confirm their support for Saigon, although the suppression of the opposition reached incredible high dimensions. In April 1961 they signed a friendship- and economy-treaty with Saigon, and from December on J.F. Kennedy raised the military presence of the USA in Vietnam. These military advisors had to train the South-Vietnamese army: In the end of 1962 there were 11200 of these advisors in Vietnam, and near the frontier of Laos a group of the elite-squad “Green Berets” were stationed. Military experts estimated that there were now about 34000 Vietcong-guerrillas.

The later president Johnson declared: "(...) Our purpose in South Vietnam is to help the Vietnamese maintain their independence (...). Without our support Vietnam will collapse and the ripple effect will be felt throughout Southeast Asia (...)".

The Vietcong didn’t seem to care that the USA helped Diem: Soon his troops had the power in the major part of the country and begun to build up their own administration. On November the 1st in 1963, Diem was brought down by a military revolt. (In 1971 it came out that the USA knew that and that they supported that revolt.)

After some more military putsches and ten different government during 18 months Nguyen Van Thieu got to power in 1965; he became president in 1967.

The second phase: The American War

President Kennedy was killed on the 22nd of November 1963. It is said that he never wanted to send ground troops and that he wanted to withdraw the advisors after the elections in 1964. But this is not right: Under his command the 16000 advisors were sent to Vietnam. 80 of them were already dead, killed in a war that, at that time, did not yet exist. Also Agent Orange was used from 1963 on.

The war then escalated as a reason of the so-called “Tonking – incident”.

At first North Vietnam accused the USA and South Vietnam: They should have attacked red fisher boats in the gulf of Tonking. This was denied immediately by the U.S. foreign office. On the 2nd of August 1964 the USA then accused North-Vietnam: the U.S.-destroyer “Maddox” was attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo-boats on a reconnaissance mission (Erkundungsmission) 11 miles away from the coast, that means in international waters. But the Communists wanted to have a 12 – miles - wide area of national waters; so for them the “Maddox” entered their territory. Two days later the USA again accused North Vietnam of an attack on two American destroyers, the “Maddox” and the “Turner Joy” who were – as the foreign office says – now 65 miles away from the coast. The North denies that. They said that the USA just needed a reason for a war. The negotiations (Verhandlung) that should have followed were not accepted by the USA: They now had a reason for a war. President Johnson now got the needed power for this war from the senate: The “Gulf of Tonking resolution” gave him the power as the leader of all parts of the army to “… stop further aggressions.” But shortly after the Incident (before the resolution) he said: “Damn! These stupid marines only fired upon flying fishes!”

In February 1965 the USA begun to bomb strategic, economic and military targets in North Vietnam as well as the Ho-Chi-Minh-Path in Laos and Cambodia, through which the Vietcong received his supports. The first
attacks were made by the 7th US-Fleet with its aircraft carriers. During the whole war more bombs were dropped on Laos than on Germany in the Second World War! But the support of the Vietcong was only stopped for few days. In 1966 alone 136000 tons ob bombs were dropped. But the military leaders still wanted “more bombs, more grenades, more napalm!”

War technical terms

The war in Vietnam was something quite new for the GIs (Government Issue). In other wars their got used to get fire support from artillery and tanks. Normally they had a single front and had to fight just in one direction. Most battlefields were open and wide, as France as in the second world war, and they were able do distinguish between civilians and soldiers. All these factors were different in Vietnam. And never before they had to fight against guerrillas who were as strong as the Vietcong. The soldiers of Vietcong were perfectly prepared for a war in the jungle and in rice – fields. They moved very quickly and the GIs were normally not able to build up a real front. Tanks weren’t able to move in this environment, and the artillery mostly killed plants because the Vietcong quickly changed positions. The Vietcong attacked at night, killed some soldiers, and then went back to the jungle. If the GIs followed the Vietcong they were lead into traps. The tunnels of Cu Chi became a nightmare to many GIs: The Vietcong really build whole cities underground, tunnels, schools, and factories. These gigantic bunkers were very difficult to destroy and perfect for the guerrilla – tactics of the Vietcong. This “iron triangle” northwest of Saigon was never conquered by the US-soldiers. Another factor was that every citizen or villager could have been a Vietcong – so many American soldiers got nervous and afraid, and that lead to some massacres, for example My Lai. The massive bombings of the jungle were normally completely useless, and most bombers who had to carry the napalm to the targets missed them because orientation over an evergreen landscape is very difficult.

The number of soldiers in Vietnam was enlarged to 185000 in the end of 1965 and got up to 543000 in 1968. The USA was supported by the SEATO, soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and other states. But even these strong and well – supported soldiers were unable to reach a strategic victory over the Vietcong.

The negotiations the USA wanted in 1966 were not answered by the North. President Johnson even met his Russian colleague Aleksej Kossygin to get the North to the negotiations, but he returned without success. At the same time the bombardments on North Vietnam were intensified. Economy and the infrastructure were destroyed in big parts so the North was soon dependent on military support from China and Russia. The massive deployment of helicopters and the use of the famous Agent Orange – the trees and bushes were bare afterwards – in the South did not stop the activities of the guerrillas of the Vietcong.

In winter 1967 the number of dead was already 15000. “KIA”, that means “killed in action”, became an every-day expression, last seen in the Second World War. The costs were very high – 25 billion dollar were needed every year. From now on more and more people wanted the immediate end of that war, for example Martin Luther King. His famous demonstration in October 67 animated many Americans to join organisations fighting for peace.

In January 1968 the Vietcong massively attacked the allied fronts: The so-called Tet-offensive failed at the cost of 40000 dead Vietcong, and from now on the troops of the FNL only played a minor role. Now the troops from the North carried out the main part of the military actions.

From this offensive on the USA became more and more the target of international protests. Especially the chemical warfare and the attacks against civilians, for example the massacre of My Lai (where 500 civilians were killed by GIs), were the reason for the protests. In addition, a big part of the American population did not really know for what they were fighting and that that war was impossible to win. So the bases for new negotiations were made, in the USA as well as in North Vietnam. On the 31st of March 1968 President Johnson declared the end of the air raids against North Vietnam; the government there wanted that as a first step to peace. At the same time Johnson said that he would not be a candidate for the next elections. While the fighting continued in South Vietnam, the three countries met in Paris to reach an armistice (Waffenstillstand) for Vietnam.

The new President Richard M. Nixon soon started a program for the “Vietnamisation” of the war; that means he wanted to support the South in military affairs, wanted to train his army and wanted to withdraw (zurückziehen) 90000 American soldiers. But in Paris neither that plan nor the death of Ho Chi Minh changed anything. The North still wanted a complete withdraw of the GIs.

After an anticommunistic revolution in Cambodia in spring 1970, American troops entered the territory of the state and started to bomb the Ho-Chi-Minh-path again. They wanted to prevent the Vietcong from entering the state of Cambodia. Both actions were heavily criticised by the world’s public and lead to many anti-American movements.

But not only the world protested. In the USA several peace-movements fought against the war, and after some documents were published which showed that the USA wanted that war, the American public was upset. So President Nixon published a plan for new elections in South Vietnam. But the plans from the North and that one from the USA did not fit, so the negotiations in Paris were stopped.

At the same time the Vietcong again started an offensive. As a reaction the US – troops heavily bombed North Vietnam and mined the most important harbours of the North to cut the support.

Henry Kissinger, who was a security advisor, met his communist colleague Le Duc Tho in Paris to arrange new talks. North Vietnam now agreed to a plan for peace, which divided political and military agreements, and wanted negotiations about Laos and Cambodia at the same time. On the 26th of October Kissinger published a nine-points-plan for peace, in which some technical details remained unsolved. The president of South Vietnam, Thieu, talked of that as a betrayal (Verrat). But as the talks stagnated on the 16th of December 1972, Nixon ordered the Air Force to bomb Hanoi and Haiphong. These attacks were the heaviest in that war and shocked not only America.

In springtime 1973, as the USA had stopped their attacks on North Vietnam, Kissinger met Le Duc Tho in Paris again. An official armistice was proclaimed on the 23rd of January 1973. The peace treaty was signed by the USA, North and South Vietnam and the provisional revolutionary government of South Vietnam on the 28th of January. This armistice wanted:

The total stop of all fights,

The withdrawal of all American Troops and their allies in 60 days,

The release of all prisoners of war in 60 days,

The acceptance of the demilitarised zone only as a provisional border,

An international commission to control the peace,

The preparation of free elections in South Vietnam,

The deployment of 145000 North Vietnamese soldiers in the South.

The third phase: The civil war

In the end of March 1973 the USA had withdrawn all their troops from Vietnam and accepted to help the South with money and military equipment. Meanwhile the war continued between the North and the South. Both parties tried to keep their land and to conquer new one. In the end of 1974 the communists started a big offensive and the troops of the South had to withdraw, and after the loss of Huë in March 1975 the war was lost for the South. On the 21st of April the president Van Thieu resigned; Saigon was conquered on the 30th of April. At the same day South Vietnam surrendered to the provisional government of the FNL. On the 2nd of July 1976 the Social Republic of Vietnam was established.

The results:

2 Million Vietnamese were killed.

3 Million Vietnamese were wounded.

12 Million people lost their homes.

500000 “boat people” tried to escape over the sea.

From 1975 to 1982 1,2 Million Vietnamese emigrated.

The country was completely destroyed. The infrastructure was eradicated.

Agent Orange and napalm destroyed thousands of square-miles and caused heavy ecological damages.

57000 Americans died, 153000 were wounded.

The war left a big wound in the American self-confidence; the trauma can still be felt today.

Many veterans are crippled, physically and psychically, by the Vietcong or by Agent Orange.

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